Mid Atlantic Real Estate Journal — January 17 - 30, 2014 — 11A


2014 F orecast By Steve Johns, PE, PLS, VanDemark & Lynch, Inc. Land Development in 2014


onsulting engineers are often the first to know of new develop-

increased willingness of con- sumers to “swipe” their credit cards. While the holiday sea- son started slowly, there is still renewed interest in com- mercial development. We are seeing this trend more in smaller, community-centered businesses and larger, central shopping areas (malls), while strip shopping centers are con- tinuing to have low occupancy rates, and less development interest. And, while it is still slow, there is increased interest in creating new lots for single family homes. This interest is focused on high end homes,

workforce homes, and infill lots. Development interest is trending towards higher density in or near “walkable” communities. Regardless of the health of the economy, obtaining the necessary regulatory ap- provals for construction is still required. Regulatory agencies have been much more willing to help resolve regulatory issues, especially if the project will have a posi- tive economic impact. On the other hand, public concerns about environmental impacts, preservation of open space, and traffic congestion, still

impact the approval process. Local opposition to just about any proposed development is causing serious delays and increasing the headaches and cost involved with obtaining approvals. Negotiating the approval process can take a significant amount of time, especially with the political pressures caused by local op- position (NIMBYs). Therefore, it is important to start the process as soon as possible. Simple projects may only take one month to design, but ob- taining the necessary approv- als may take another four to ten months; and, depending

on project particulars, larger projects can take well over a year. Compounding the difficul- ties in obtaining approvals are continued changes in regula- tions. New stormwater regu- lations in Delaware, as well as in the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed, are now being promulgated. TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Loads) has become a term everyone needs to know, as the new regula- tions limit TMDL’s watershed by watershed. These new regu- lations will make the design and approval process difficult Continued on page 28A

ment plans because their expertise in the land de- v e l opmen t p r o c e s s i s c r i t i c a l when some- one wants to

Steve Johns

build new or expanded facili- ties. Consulting engineering firms’ provide project plan- ning, site and building de- sign, and coordination of the regulatory approval process. These all have an early impact on commercial, industrial, institutional, or residential development. Therefore, if we review the number, size, and type of projects “on our boards”, we can spot trends developing in land use. Based on a review of our past year’s business, the sta- bility of the development busi- ness has improved. While we did not see the growth spurt that showed up in late 2012, our clients continued to call us throughout the year with new projects. This kept the development business on a slow but steady growth trend. The single family housing in- dustry continues to be the last and slowest to climb out of the recession, but other segments of the development world are showing real life. This is led by companies that finally feel comfortable spending mon- ies to catch up on deferred maintenance, and take risks on new opportunities. One of the leading areas of growth for the past year was apartments, and the de- mand for this segment of the industry does not seem to be slowing down. Another area of renewed business has been the increased activity at refin- eries and other manufacturing facilities. The transport by rail of crude oil to area refin- eries from North Dakota and Alberta Canada has renewed the viability of local refineries. In addition, manufacturers are eyeing the availability of cheap natural gas from cen- tral Pennsylvania, and the easy access to Ports. This com- bination of stable, inexpensive energy and rawmaterial, with easy transport of goods, is en- ticing more manufacturers to the region. The other condition that appears to be helping the development industry is the

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